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Help! My Photos are Weird Colors: The Importance of White Balance

Do you ever snap a photo and wonder why the picture looks like it was pulled out of an old photo box because of the red (blue, yellow OR green) tint to it? The problem is that your camera’s white balance is not adjusted correctly for the lighting situation in which you are shooting.

To achieve correct coloring when shooting in wonky lighting situations, you will need to change your camera’s settings for white balance.  While the “Auto” white balance setting typically does a decent job of adjusting for ambient light, there are times in which you will want to change the settings to compliment the quality of lighting in which you are currently shooting.

Incandescent light (from a standard lightbulb) is more yellow, fluorescent light (from a fluorescent tube bulb, such as in an office) is green, and light on a cloudy day is a bluish hue.  If you are shooting in a school auditorium, then adjust the white balance to the icon that looks like a fluorescent light bulb.  If you are shooting outside with cloud coverage, then change your setting to the little cloud icon. Just look around you to evaluate what your light source is, and adjust accordingly.   Making these changes can help your image coloring to be much truer to life!

Even the simplest point-and-shoot cameras these days have the ability to adjust white balance (you will need to consult your specific camera model’s user guide for directions).  However, if you have a camera that doesn’t offer these setting changes, then you may want to consider shooting in black and white, or editing the image after it’s taken to black and white.  That way you can still capture the memory, and not be frustrated with the way the picture is tinted.

Want to learn more about White Balance and how it can affect your images?  Check out this article from Digital Photography School: Introduction to White Balance.

White Balance Correction

This image was corrected in post-processing; however, I could have achieved the same results if I had adjusted my White Balance to “incandescent” – this type of light is what is giving it the yellow hue.



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